NEW COCOA MULCH DEADLY TO DOGS?
TheDogPlace Staff - June 2009
Reports of cocoa mulch poisoning so far fall into the "unconfirmed" category. We present the following "alerts" FYI. Second-hand, unauthenticated (and usually unsigned) reports are not credible but at the same time, we realize that concerned dog owners are not professional reporters, and the internet is, well, the internet.
We would not be doing our job if we
failed to alert readers to the possibility that cocoa mulch can
harm their dog.
Having called to question Snopes' findings based on the debunked ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center root report (see (1) Killer Grapes and Raisins), we ask that anyone with a veterinary-confirmed case of cocoa mulch toxicity click to Report To The Editor. Our researchers have a little Snoop Dog that can dig out just about anything.
This email Alert received in May 2009 is typical but came complete with a photo:
"Cocoa Mulch is manufactured by Hershey's, and they claim that "It is true
that studies have shown that 50% of the dogs that eat Cocoa Mulch can suffer physical harm to
a variety of degrees (depending on each individual dog). However, 98%
of all dogs won't eat it." *Snopes site gives the
following information: (Link included in the email has been
deleted by editor because IT was toxic, i.e. loaded with virus.)
Cocoa Mulch, which is sold by Home Depot, Foreman's Garden Supply and other Garden supply stores contains a lethal ingredient called 'Theobromine'. It is lethal to dogs and cats. It smells like chocolate and it really attracts dogs. They will ingest this stuff and die. Several deaths already
occurred in the last 2-3 weeks. Theobromine is in all chocolate, especially dark or baker's chocolate which is
toxic to dogs. Cocoa bean shells contain potentially toxic quantities of theobromine, a xanthine compound similar in effects to caffeine and theophylline. A dog that ingested a lethal quantity of garden mulch made from cacao bean shells developed severe convulsions and died 17 hours later. Analysis of the stomach contents
and the ingested cacao bean shells revealed the presence of lethal amounts of theobromine."
We are providing this clean, direct link to (2) Snopes re cocoa mulch for those who want a more detailed report. Snopes reports only one confirmed death from ingestion of cocoa mulch, that of a Lab in 2007. A necropsy performed at Un. Of Minnesota revealed cocoa shells in the stomach and "evidence of theobromine in the shells."
sells/sold cocoa mulch but the statement quoted by Snopes is not on the
corporate website. It doesn't matter and we did call Target, also
mentioned in several reports. Hershey, the alleged manufacturer of the
deadly stuff offers no statement and no "search" feature but may have at
We did go to(3)ConsumerAffairs.com because they are a professional reporting agency
with excellent public input. Still, nothing definitive. Regarding the Calypso Report (see below),
"ConsumerAffairs.com tried to contact that clinic, but it did not respond to our inquiry.
Veterinarians, however, aren't the only ones warning pet owners about
products that contain theobromine. The Hershey's company--the
largest maker of chocolate and sugar candies in North America--also
cautions pet owners about that compound. "Dogs metabolize
theobromine very slowly," the company states on its Web
site. "As a result, theobromine can have a serious effect on the
animal's heart, kidneys and central nervous system. It carries the same
risk as does a dog's consumption of other common household items such as
coffee, tea, cola beverages and certain houseplants."
Meanwhile, experts say other types of mulch--including cedar chips and
straw--are less toxic than cocoa mulch. But some may contain oil and
resins that can cause gastrointestinal problems in their pets."
Another example received: "Cocoa Mulch is manufactured by Hershey's,
they claim "It is true that studies have shown that 50% of the dogs that eat Cocoa Mulch can suffer physical harm to a
variety of degrees (depending on each individual dog). However, 98% of
all dogs won't eat it." According to Snopes, that is not
And another: "Cocoa Mulch
contains a lethal ingredient called "Theobromine" which is lethal to
dogs and cats. It smells like chocolate and it really attracts dogs.
They will ingest this stuff and die. Several deaths already occurred in
the last 2-3 weeks. Theobromine is the ingredient that is used to make
all chocolate, especially dark or baker's chocolate."
And typical, this hints at necropsy but offers no
references: "Cocoa bean shells contain potentially toxic quantities of theobromine, a xanthine compound
similar in effects to caffeine and theophylline. A dog that ingested a
lethal quantity of garden mulch made from cacao bean shells developed
severe convulsions and died 17 hours later. Analysis of the stomach
contents and the ingested cacao bean shells revealed the presence of
lethal amounts of theobromine."
And lastly, the original "Calypso" report:
"My client was the doting owner of two young lab/golden retriever mixes.
Over the weekend, they purchased Cocoa Mulch from Target to use in their
garden. They loved the way it smelled and it was advertised to keep cats
away from their garden. They set the bag in their yard. Their dog
Calypso, decided that the mulch smelled good enough to eat so she broke
into it and devoured a large helping. She vomited a few times which was
typical of her when she would get into something she shouldn't have
gotten in to. She was not acting lethargic in any way. The next day, Mom
woke up and took Calypso out for her morning walk. Half way through the
walk, she had a seizure and died instantly. Although the mulch
had NO warnings printed on the label, upon further investigation on the company's website, this product is HIGHLY toxic to dogs. Denise (Calypso's mom) wanted me to pass this information along so no
one had to experience the same tragedy she went through. In Loving
Memory of Calypso."
(1) Killer Grapes and Raisins
(2) Snopes re cocoa mulch
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